"Oooh, it's like being on my driving test again!" This phrase is uttered by so many people when taking an unfamiliar car for a test drive with a salesperson in the car. You might feel a bit nervous about it, but you really shouldn't worry. At Thame Cars we have 21 years of experience under our belts and we know how to help you enjoy the test drive a little more. I believe that test drives should be fun but informative, so here are some of my thoughts on how to get the best out of your time behind the wheel of your prospective purchase.
A Decent Drive
Take as long as you need to get a good feel for the car, not as long as the salesman thinks you need. Give yourself time to get the seating position and controls right before you set off, because the car will feel wrong if you haven't done that first. Drive on a range of roads to show you what it's really like to live with. Concentrate on roads you drive on a lot, such as fast roads if you do lots of motorway driving, or a town centre if you mainly drive in urban environments. Go to a car park to see how easy you find it to manoeuvre, or even to see how the parking sensors work (check whether they're fitted first though!). Here's a top tip: driving on a bumpy road will show you how it copes on the Great British road surface. If it can handle that comfortably, it can handle anything you throw at it! Oh, and if the dealer is reluctant to let you drive it, you probably shouldn't buy it.
Does It Fit?
Well, does it? If you need to squeeze your new car in the garage, take it home and see if you can get it in there. Need to get a buggy in the boot? Bring the buggy and see if it fits. Have you got three strapping teenagers to fit in there? Bring them too and see if they can get in the back with the driver's seat set where you'd have it. A new car is a massive investment and you'll be very unhappy if you buy something that doesn't suit your needs, so make sure it's right before you get your wallet out.
Drive a Few
Don't just drive one car, drive several if you can. Simple factors such as wheel size, suspension and engine size can make a massive difference to your ownership experience. A sporty model might look great, but if you'd find the sports seats, big wheels and sports suspension too hard to live with, then it's worth trying other models in the range. Try a couple of different engine types too, to see which you prefer. Speaking for ourselves as specialists in nearly new Ford and Vauxhall, we've usually got a few different versions of each model for you to try - you're welcome to drive whatever you like.
If You Don't Know, Ask!
Ask the salesperson anything necessary to ensure you know everything you need to know before you sign on the dotted line. Don't assume it has Sat Nav, only to find it doesn't when you get it home. Don't pretend to be an expert if you aren't; as the saying goes, there's no such thing as a silly question. Most dealers prepare their cars to a good standard, but don't be afraid to call in the AA for an independent inspection if you want that extra reassurance.
So there you have it. Enjoy your test drives, and we hope you find the perfect car. As ever, we're here if you need us.